Discoveries and Finds

I picked up a copy of Beijing’s 1983 Statistical Yearbook Sunday morning in panjiayuan. [n.b. I overpaid. He asked for 20, and I gave him 15 yuan, which is less than US$2 for something that has much more value than that for me. On the other hand, I forgot that demand for this book is essentially limited to … well … probably me. If I didn’t buy it, no one would. I should have had it for 5 yuan, 10 at the most.]

Fun facts from the yearbook: The total population of the municipality (which includes not just the city proper but a number of outlying counties) was 9.54 million, 209,000 of whom are not usual residents in the city (definition unclear to me at the moment). 5.47 million people worked in non-agricultural sectors compared to 3.86 million in agriculture. Beijing consumed 6.3% of all beer consumed in the country and 6.1% of all televisions, yet had 12.8% of the cars.

If only I had lots of space left in my luggage, I would load up on yearbooks….

Also at panjiayuan, I found an original gift and a very interesting young artist who fills massive canvases with haunting images. One piece has a man crouching with his head in his hands. This is repeated four times with his purple shadow seems to grow from right to left as does his desperation on the green background. Another has a child looking down from a raised platform of some sort onto a flood of identical children who are looking up at him/her. The ackground is a sunset on the stark Tibetan landscape. Amidst the immense amount of junk at panjiayuan, these finds remind me why it remains my favorite market in Beijing.

The research is moving ahead. I hardly ever believe that I am “discovering” anything fundamentally new, but seeing how my own thoughts have developed, my understanding has increased, and how other works fail to synthesize necessary topics, the accretion of knowledge and expertise is fundamental to discovery.

4 responses to “Discoveries and Finds”

  1. Well, not really assuming that this vendor is not a complete moron. If some random white dude comes up to you and asks for the 1983 yearbook, anybody with an ounce of intellignce would assume that he has pretty fucking high demand for it and a pretty fucking high reservation price

  2. Imagine if instead of me just showing up at a stall and looking at the book and asking about it, there were a Vickrey auction for the book. Since there would be no other bidder (my assumption and an oversimplification), I would get the book for free. My reservation value is irrelevant if the seller has no other demanders that can bid me up.

  3. The reservation price is supremely relevant. This has less to do with supply-and-demand than with information.You thought you had perfect (or at least good information) about his reservation price; that may or may not have been true.You also thought that he had no clue about your (and people who look like you) reservation price. My only point is that your physical appearance itself reveals a lot of information about you: your income, your price elasticity, etc. Think about it. What is the highest price you were willing to spend on that book? Maybe $15. Assume the vendor could read your mind and then said, “I won’t sell it for anything less than $15.” You then said: “Nope, I want it for $1.” He knows your reservation price and he says: “Nope, $15.” Eventually, you’ll pay the $15. Therefore, it is irrelevant whether there are other demanders. It is relevant if there are other suppliers. For example, if you could just hop on a bus and find the book for $1, you would do so. Assume that the vendor knows that you know this; this would then change your reservation price and the offer.

  4. 1. My appearance does provide the seller with information.2. My reservation value is possibly relevant; however, the situation was very much a quasi-interested buyer and a seller very happy to get rid of the book. I could have had it for less.

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